Dr. Aparna R. Iyer is a board-certified adult psychiatrist who believes strongly in the therapeutic value of establishing trusting and respectful relationships with her clients. With a holistic, non-judgmental and gentle approach, she focuses her efforts on getting to understand the client prior to formulating a treatment plan. Her approach is thorough, exploring a client’s biological, psychological and social factors before determining the next best step, which may or may not include medications. She treats all adult mental health illnesses with a special interest in women’s mental health, including those clients in the peri- and post- partum stages. Here she answers some questions that people commonly ask psychiatrists. Still have questions? Have a topic you’d like to see covered on the blog? Please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Expert Q and A:
How do I know if I am depressed or just having normal feelings of sadness?
Just like happiness, sadness can be a normal human emotion. Humans often feel sadness during difficult periods of their lives or when experiencing loss. However, if your sadness becomes more constant, severe or longer lasting, you may be experiencing depression. Depression can manifest in many different forms, but some common symptoms also include loss of appetite, poor sleep, lack of energy and motivation, and a general lack of interest in the things that used to bring you joy. Depression is far-reaching, often causing poor functioning and conflict within our families and work environments. Untreated depression can even contribute to physical problems, such as worsening experiences of chronic pain or contributing to poor cardiovascular health. It’s best to seek evaluation and treatment as early as possible, because the earlier treatment starts, the more effective it is.
Other than psychiatric medications, are there other forms of effective treatment?
Research suggests that habits such as healthy eating, meditation, quitting smoking, limiting alcoholic consumption and engaging in regular exercise are all important lifestyle choices that could improve your overall wellbeing.
However, if your symptoms still persist, it would be best to seek a mental health professional who is able to evaluate you further. Treatment recommendations can vary from person to person, and it is important for you and your provider to tailor your treatment plan to your unique needs. Some conditions can respond to psychotherapy (or “talk therapy”) alone. Most psychiatrists are trained in psychotherapy, but they also have the ability to suggest and prescribe medications if needed. If this is the case, many psychiatrists, including myself, opt to use the lowest effective dose of medications.
I can’t sleep at night and I feel exhausted the next day. What’s the best remedy for my insomnia?
You’re not alone! In fact, a third of Americans suffer from insomnia, which can leave you feeling exhausted and unable to function well in your responsibilities. Although many people try sleep aids, the preferential approach is to first try lifestyle changes that can actually promote good, restorative sleep. An example of a good technique is to engage in relaxing activities, such as taking a warm bath or drinking a glass of warm milk, in the evening before attempting to sleep. A medical professional can help you further identify techniques to achieve that great night of sleep and, if needed, explore any further issues, such as medical complications like depression or obstructive sleep apnea, that may be impacting your ability to sleep well.
I do get nervous sometimes. How do I know if I suffer from an anxiety disorder?
Anxiety is an adaptive human reaction to stressful situations. However, when the anxiety becomes persistent, irrational or debilitating, you may be experiencing an anxiety disorder. Anxiety is very common and could be mild or more severe. In some cases, it can even impact your physical health and could impact your ability to be successful at home or at work. Examples of anxiety disorders include social phobia (feeling extreme anxiety in social situations) or panic disorder (sudden periods of intense fear). Luckily, anxiety disorders are treatable by a wide array of treatment options, and many people who do seek treatment can quickly feel relief from their symptoms.
I think I could use someone to talk to, but I am nervous about speaking to a stranger about my problems.
There are many major life circumstances, such as changes in jobs, having a child, divorce, work stressors, relocation, or family conflict, that may cause stress or sadness. Sometimes you might find it difficult to express these feelings to your family and friends. Therapy provides a safe and confidential environment in which these feelings can be expressed and explored, and over 75% of people in psychotherapy alone report significant benefits. Many of these benefits include improvement in mood and anxiety, increased happiness in marriages and families, fewer sick days, and improved workplace satisfaction. Finding a therapist who is the right fit for you is important, as your therapist will support you, help you identify and strengthen your coping mechanisms, explore the circumstances that may be worsening your condition, and help you engage in healthy lifestyle choices.
I just had a baby, so this should be the happiest time in my life. But why do I feel so sad?
Babies are wonderful and miraculous, but they come with a tremendous amount of responsibility and mark a big change in your life. Sometimes motherhood can feel stressful, joyous and isolating all at the same time. In fact, approximately 85% of women in the post-partum period report experiencing mood changes. Some of these women go on to experience post partum depression, which is characterized by profound sadness, tearfulness, sleep disturbances and other symptoms. Luckily, it is treatable, and identifying and treating it early can allow you to get back to enjoying those sweet baby snuggles. If you are experiencing these symptoms, let your medical doctor know right away so she can refer you to a mental health professional trained to support you during this important time in your life.